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Microsoft Outlook Embraces Social Networking

There's life in this old dog yet. With social networking eclipsing e-mail as the method by which folks communicate, Microsoft Outlook might look a little tired, a little dated. But Microsoft knows how to get eyeballs glued to its products' screens.

This week, Redmond decided that Outlook would subsume social networking sites -- and that it wouldn't happen the other way around. Starting with LinkedIn, Microsoft is integrating social networking into Outlook 2010 with the Outlook Social Connector. MySpace (yes, it still exists) and Facebook are next; there's no word yet on Twitter. (Here's an RCPU note: Microsoft, if you accomplish just one thing in the social networking space, please let it be the death of Twitter. We like where you're going with not including it in Outlook. Isolate Twitter, and hopefully it'll starve. Oh, and remember, readers, you can follow RCPU on Twitter at http://twitter.com/leepender. For now.)

We didn't think Microsoft would give up so easily in the battle for screen attention. Everybody's trying to do something in the social networking space -- even Microsoft has some sort of weak effort related to MSN, from what we can tell -- but this move is different because it merges multiple social networking Web sites into good ol', familiar Outlook. There's no need now to go to several different places to find out whether somebody you barely remember from high school has made dinner for his kids yet. Now, that information is right in the inbox you use at home and possibly at work, too.

For partners, the Outlook Social Connector (or OSC) might not lead directly to profits, but it is a good sign that Redmond is serious about keeping users in its clutches and not letting Outlook (or Office) die as a communication paradigm. It's also a sign that Microsoft is not totally in the dark with its social networking efforts. Besides, the single-view (minus Twitter, apparently) approach Microsoft is taking to social networking is bound to appeal to users who are thinking of either re-upping with Notes or bolting to something less familiar, like Gmail.

This is Microsoft's way of keeping Outlook relevant, and it might just have legs. That's good news for any partner who's struggling to place Microsoft in an online world that increasingly revolves around self-serving status updates, nauseating "recommendations" and ridiculous but very popular games. Hey, now folks can have their online time-wasters and keep their familiar, user-friendly interface, too. Not a bad deal overall.

What's your take on how social networking is impacting your business? Do you see the Outlook connector as good news? Tell all at lpender@rcpmag.com. And, yes, we're going to get back to running reader e-mails soon -- hopefully next week.

Posted on February 18, 2010 at 11:56 AM


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